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Diamond Approach

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

From the teachings of A.H. Almaas

What is Witness/Witnessing?

Diamond Approach Teachings About: Witness/Witnessing

Awareness Aware of Itself as a Witnessing of Everything Without Being Involved in Anything

The silence is vast and eerie. There is a sense of ultimacy, of end. It seems that there is nothing beyond it. It is not that the universal witness is the highest. It is beyond high and low. From this silence, the revelation of all essential manifestations of Being arises in a hierarchy within the background of this the vast witnessing awareness. It contains all the levels of Being, so it exists at all the levels. Experiencing the universal witness is not a matter of ascending grades; it is rather an exit, getting out of the whole thing. It is truly the beyond, the unchanging silent background. Its main characteristic is that it is aware. In this way it is similar to the personal witness, where the personal witness seems now to have been a limited and personal manifestation of it. The personal witness is aware of the immediate environment of the location of consciousness, while the universal witness is aware, in addition, of the totality of the universe, as if from above or from afar. This perception does not include all of the details of manifestation, but rather a general perception, as if awareness has receded backward until all that exists is in front of it. Phenomenologically, the perception is of being an endless emptiness, so vast that the whole of existence is a small manifestation within it, seen in general outline as a river of images in constant flux. The awareness is aware of itself as a witnessing of everything without being involved in anything. A dark awareness, but not exactly black. It is more dark gray, the color of the aspect of existence, but it is sheer voidness. It is not no mind space, for although it is beyond thought and mind, mind can exist within it. The strangest thing about this awareness is its relation to time. It is beyond time. This is different from the sense of timelessness that arises when the essential manifestation of Being outshines everything else, where it seems that time has stopped. It is beyond time. It seems to be what is there before time begins, and after time ends, and at all times. 

Becoming an Immaterial Witness, Not Located Within a Personal Consciousness

As this happens, and as the totality of the tube of contraction disappears, I lose the sense of being a person, and become an awareness that recedes indefinitely, as if backward, from the familiar sense of being a person, until I recognize myself as a new kind of witnessing. I become an immaterial witness, not located within a personal consciousness. I find myself to be a witnessing of all phenomena. A new obstacle arises at this point, a belief that constitutes a resistance against this new manifestation. This belief interferes with the sense of witnessing, without totally eliminating it. The belief is that there will be no personal life, no personal living, if there is no enmeshment in life. This exposes the belief as part of the inertia of being the separate individual of ego. Being responds to this concern by manifesting the aspect of the personal essence, the pearl beyond price, the person of Being. The experience transforms into knowing myself as a full presence, rounded as a pearl, but transparent and sweet. I feel personal, even though I am a pure presence of transparent consciousness. This transparent fullness has a subtle sweetness, making it feel slightly sticky, or gummy. There is pure presence, with clarity and spaciousness all around. The cognitive aspect of the experience is that I am a person with no qualities, only a personal presence, devoid of images or psychological boundaries. Since I can be a person without being the product of memory, I can live a personal life without getting lost in it.

Being the Absolute Nonbeing Witnessing the Emergence of the Forms of Experience

In the process of dissolution of the conscious presence of the soul into the absolute, or in any experience of inquiring into the nature of the absolute, we discover that the last vestige of consciousness is a multimodal sensory one. As we see and feel the mysterious darkness of nonbeing we feel our presence as a kind of sensation. Our presence becomes simply the presence of simple sensation, sensing itself and the nonbeing of the absolute. As it apprehends the absolute it sees and senses it. The seeing becomes a seeing of darkness, which culminates in the total cessation of perception. The sensing becomes a sensing of absence of being, which culminates in the total cessation of sensation. As we learn to acclimate to the reality of the absolute, and experience it as our truth, we experience ourselves as its vast emptiness, as the infinity of the luminous night. We are then the absolute nonbeing witnessing the emergence of the forms of experience. When we look within we see nothing, just a darkness; and if the darkness dominates, there results either cessation or the extroversion of awareness to the witnessing of phenomena. Also, when we sense ourselves we find nothing, but this finding of nothing is the finding of no sensation. The absolute is so empty that it is empty of the sensation of anything, including the sensation of nothing. This is quite an unusual state, for we are accustomed to having sensations. But here we are completely ourselves, totally in touch with our depths, absolutely intimate with our subjective experience, but experience no sensation. We are aware only of the absence of sensation, which is possible only because there is some remnant of sensation in parts of the body that creates a contrast.

Finding Ourselves Witnessing Manifestation

In experiencing the absolute, we perceive a transparent and clear space, but dark, so dark it is absolutely black. The blackness is not a color, but the absence of light. In other words, nonconceptual awareness possesses light while the absolute is ontologically prior to light. They are both transcendent to being and nonbeing, but they differ in their relation to light. We can say that the absolute is the mystery prior to light, but at the same time the source of light. The first light that manifests in it is the nonconceptual light, pure awareness. In other words, both are empty of ultimate existence, but the absolute is much more empty. It is even empty of light, awareness, and hence can be experienced as cessation. Looking into pure awareness we see transparent and light-filled space, pervading all manifest forms, and constituting them. Looking into the absolute we first see darkness, but if we focus on it completely, our awareness spontaneously turns around and we find ourselves witnessing manifestation. We see the manifestation as possessing a ground of pure nonconceptual awareness, but this ground now appears as a manifestation within the absolute.

In Pure Witnessing the Soul is So Completely Her Ground that . . .

There exists another, more subtle, consideration, that might be a factor in the infant’s inability to recognize its ground. It is known that the infant is initially not self-reflective, and that self-reflection develops at some point in early experience. Since the infant is not self-reflective, but at the same time experiences itself immediately, its state of being might be what is known in spiritual traditions as witnessing. This is actually the claim of some spiritual traditions, as later quotes will attest. In pure witnessing the soul is so completely her ground that her posture of awareness is complete witnessing of arising phenomena without any self-reflection. The witness does not reflect on itself. In this case there is awareness of the various arising forms, but no perception of the ground that is the source of awareness, even though one is totally being the ground. This means one is totally being one’s true nature, but there is no discrimination of it in consciousness. This is not unconsciousness; this is total awareness. It is being oneself so completely, so intimately, that one has no perceptual or cognitive awareness of it. One is so much one’s ground that there is no distance that allows self-reflection. This is the characteristic mode of awareness in the self-realization of the absolute. (See chapter 22.) We see this as a possibility at the earliest times of infancy, but have no observational evidence for it or against it. And if it is present in infancy, it is bound to be only at the very earliest stages, and remains after that only as an intermittent state.

Personal Inquiry Requires Witnessing in the Middle of Experience

So inquiry requires that we dive into experience but continue to be aware and present while in the middle of it. And it is the Diamond Guidance that gives us this capacity to be present and objective in the middle of everything. We can be feeling emotional or cynical, or have all kinds of physical reactions, but right in the center can be an objectivity, an awareness, a presence, and a curiosity about the situation. The presence of the Diamond Guidance provides all these elements in the inquiry. But for it to arise, there must be a personal involvement, a personal investment, a personal passion. We need to have a personal love for the process, for the exploration, for the truth, for our soul, for reality. Otherwise the Guidance will not show up. We can’t just be distant observers; we can’t just look at experience as if it were a movie. Many spiritual experiences of transcendence or oneness are similar to watching a movie; but that’s not inquiry yet, that’s impersonal witnessing. For there to be personal inquiry, the witnessing must occur in the middle of experience—in contact with it—not outside it. We continue to witness, but we’re in the middle of it. Our witnessing is embodied. Why would the soul strip herself, expose her beauty and her richness, if we’re not completely and personally interested in her revealing her full truth, if we are inquiring with a prejudice or an aim in mind? Real inquiry coincides with a passionate involvement with one’s process, with one’s realization, with one’s life. That way it becomes the core that goes through our life. All of our life then feeds into it and is an expression of it.

The Detached Witness State Can Exist on Several Dimensions

This is beyond merging. It is the recognition of nonseparateness, of the universality of Essence. And it is a delight that separateness is eliminated by Love. This aspect of Being is the most effective for transcending ego boundaries. One lets go of his personal boundaries through Love. There is no fear or loss, for one merely becomes a loving presence that transcends and contains all boundaries. One’s identity is now not with the body, so it has no physical boundaries. One is this conscious Love, that pervades and transcends everything. From this place, one can be conscious of one’s body walking or moving, but not be involved in it. One is merely a witnessing consciousness. But it is not like the Impersonal Witness. It does not have an impersonal sense to it. It is also a pervading sense of presence of Love, and not a background emptiness. It is important to notice here that the detached witness state can exist on several dimensions. Most spiritual teachings speak of the detached witness as if there is one such state. The fact is that one can be a witness from different dimensions, for instance as the Impersonal Awareness, or the Cosmic Consciousness. When Cosmic Consciousness arises, it feels familiar. It reminds one of normal personal consciousness, except that it is boundless. This points to the fact that the normal consciousness is really this Cosmic Consciousness, but that it is restricted by identification with the body and its boundaries. One learns that one’s personal consciousness has the same quality as this aspect; it is like daylight. But it is focused, narrowed and made heavy by attaching it to the body.

Without Self-Reflection the Simplicity of Presence is Merely the Simplicity of Witnessing

In the lucidity of space, a question appears, carefree and delighted: “And what is me?” Nothing recognizable by memory. I experience myself, without a feeling of self, as the simplicity of presence, which is now a simplicity of perception, a bare witnessing. There is no inner dialogue, and no commentary on what is perceived. The perceiving is without a perceiver, awareness without an observer. Without self-reflection, the simplicity of presence is merely the simplicity of witnessing. I am a witness of all in the field of vision, a witness with no inside. The witness is merely the witnessing. The only thing left from familiar experience is the location of witnessing, which seems to be determined by the location of the body. The body is relaxed and clear. The sense of the body is more of luminosity than of sensation, witnessed as part of the environment. Time does not seem to pass; it has come to a stop. When the psychic constellation that has given me the familiar sense of identifying myself ceases, the sense of the passage of time is gone. In the simplicity of presence, time does not pass, for the sense of the passage of time is simply the continuity of the feeling of the familiar identity.

Witnessing Phenomena Without Any Self-Reflection

In pure witnessing the soul is so completely her ground that her posture of awareness is complete witnessing of arising phenomena without any self-reflection. The witness does not reflect on itself. In this case there is awareness of the various arising forms, but no perception of the ground that is the source of awareness, even though one is currently being the ground. This means one is currently being one's true nature, but there is no discrimination of it in consciousness. This is not unconsciousness; this is total awareness. It is being oneself so completely, so intimately, that one has no perceptual or cognitive awareness of it. One is so much one's ground that there is no distance that allows self-reflection. This is the characteristic mode of awareness in the self-realization of the absolute.

Witnessing Within the Manifestation But Still Being the Absolute

The background of this unfoldment, the absolute, is so totally dark it appears black, but luminous crystal clear black. We experience it as beyond the world. The world looks like a transparent picture, as if it were a soap bubble with pictures on it. It looks like a reflection on the inside of a transparent bubble, within the infinite immensity of the crystalline absolute. This perception changes depending on how involved we are in the manifestation, or how concentrated we are on the absolute. When we are witnessing within the manifestation but still being the absolute, we can perceive our body moving, doing what it does—eating, talking, and so on. However, all this is seen as completely spontaneous functioning, not belonging to a person or a self. There is no doer whatsoever. Everything is happening as functioning, each part is doing its functioning smoothly and spontaneously. The functioning is not related to a doer, a person, or a self. And it is not seen as separate from other functioning in the environment, for all functioning is a unified dynamic field. Furthermore, the functioning is the same as the phenomena, the perceived reality, the logos whose dynamic pattern is the universe. However, there is no I, no self, no center. The awareness and perception originate from the darkness of the absolute.

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